To many, the drug testing process can be awkward or shameful, both for the person requesting that the test be administered and the person subjected to submitting a bodily fluid or hair sample.
Two retirees from the national Israeli police department, Yaacov Shoham and Baruch Glattstein, have developed a way around the confrontation aspect of drug testing.
Their product, which has been utilized across the world over the past five years by customs, military, and other law enforcement, is now sitting on retail shelves in the United States. Shoham, CEO of IDenta Corporation and founder of the Touch&Know drug testing kit, says that these kits are unique in that they test substances, and not people.
Traditional testing kits, known as ‘biologicals,’ require a hair, urine, or saliva sample, and then report whether the person has the questioned drugs in their system. Touch&Know allows a concerned person to test a powder, tablet, or plant he or she found in order to determine what the drug is.
“The chemicals/reagents are looking for specific types of chemical structures and certain atoms in certain positions of space. And if those atoms and those positions of space are there, the reagents in the kit will react with that substance and turn color,” says Shoham.
The paramount part in this, according to Shoham, is that this tool serves as a non-confrontational first-step in the sequence.
Confrontations can be intimidating for both parties and the denial and excuses come soon after. By testing a substance, the concerned person assumes the authority to tell the drug user that the substance has been tested and confirmed, and that the user needs to look into getting help.
“It’s not about telling someone you don’t trust them and asking them for a bodily fluid. You now have the evidence to move this process forward,” explains Shoham.
Of course, this approach can be applied only if someone actually finds a substance in another person’s possession.
As the Chief Scientist, Glattstein invented and continues to develop these various illicit drug detectors. The first detectors created were for cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Over the years, he has added to his repertoire which now includes many illicit drugs, explosives, and precursors.
Testing for precursors — the raw materials used by clandestine laboratories to create/manufacture the illicit drugs — is necessary for customs, police departments, and military because they are not only interested in finding the final products, but also the ingredients that are used in the process.
The test itself is held inside a patented hard plastic casing that the founder of the company says is extremely safe and easy to use.
“Whether the user is a parent, police officer, treatment center staff member — it is so simple to use it that there is no education or training required to use it,” explains Shoham.
The user does not have to access a laboratory, measure chemicals, or worry about the risk of the chemicals becoming explosive or breaking through the packaging to cut or burn the skin, he says.
The general screening kit by Touch&Know tests for up to 21 kinds of illicit drugs, including: heroin, cocaine/crack, Ecstasy, ketamine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine.
In addition to the general screening kit, the developers have created kits that test for specific drugs. The company’s research has led the team to be able to create applicators that can test on trace amounts by wiping down the surface.
Another recent development is a test with the capability to detect synthetic drugs. Touch&Know’s chemicals test for many of the synthetics that exist, including bath salts, which are testing by the general screening kit.
“What’s happening is the scientists who work for these illegal labs, they keep changing the structure of the synthetics. Because when the government deems something as illegal, the scientists go in and put a couple extra carbon atoms, maybe an oxygen atom, and change the structure. So they are rapidly evolving, but the general screening kits on the shelves at retailers will detect many of them,” says Shoham.
Because of these trends, IDenta is constantly in R&D to capture the latest modifications.
The kits available today at retail stores in the United States include the general screening test and an additional test for marijuana/hashish. The marijuana testing kit was included because “there’s so much of that going around,” according to Shoham.
Aside from the retail market, the company packages the tests for professionals as well. These come in groups of 10 and include tests for LSD, marijuana/hashish, heroin, and cocaine/crack.
Expanding around the world
Touch&Know testing kits became available in Walgreens outlets across the country in early October 2012. Anticipating all going well in the US, the IDenta team is already in discussions with representatives to sell to retail markets in Australia, India, France and the UK.
Although its original intentions weren’t to sell to a retail market, the company found commercial success with police departments around the world, and saw that it made sense for the in-home or treatment center market. “It’s a logical product to shore up the defenses for the consumer,” adds Shoham.